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How to Get Ontario Topographic Data

Looking for Ontario Topographic Data?

Recently, someone contacted me looking for information on where they could find Ontario topographic data for the Thunder Bay area, so I assumed that they must have already checked the Canadian data page and suggested that they check out the Ontario Basic Mapping website (OBM).

The Ontario Basic Mapping (OBM) site by the Geography Network is a great online resource with simplistic interactive interface that provides users tools to create customized map views and the ability to download various topographic base mapping data for the entire Province of Ontario. The site contains GIS layers created from 1:10,000 base maps from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources that people can download including layers for transportation, water, municipal, elevation, parks and conservation areas. The portal created with ArcIMS makes it pretty easy to use and a convenient way to obtain mapping data in a variety of formats for virtually any area of interest in Ontario.

Ontario Topographic Data - Ontario Base Mapping Download Site

However, that person replied back to me a few days latter telling me that the site was only an online web map viewer and they needed actual data to use in a GIS, and wanted to know if I had any other sources of mapping information for Northern Ontario.

Now, I thought that the e-mail was a little strange since I have used data from the Ontario Basic Mapping web site before while planning various aerial surveys in Northern Ontario, so I decided to go check out the web site to see if the downloading data feature that I had used had been removed. Turns out the site is still the same, it can be used as an online web map viewer to customize and print maps but the downloading option still exists providing the ability to download the map layers in the viewer to use with your own GIS software packages like ArcMap or MapInfo.

It seems like a pretty simple mapping application to me but maybe it is not as obvious as some people need it to be, so I decided to share some of the notes on downloading topographic base data from the OBM site that I provided to them, in case others have trouble figuring how to download the data as well (And summarized in the video at the bottom).

The OBM site is an ArcIMS site with a simplistic look and an interactive interface that provides users with tools to create customized map views and the ability to download the various topographic base mapping data in the map window. If you are not interested in downloading GIS layers but still want to make some maps then like most typical map viewers, they also provide printing options where you can create either paper or digital PDF maps.

Ontario Topographic Data - Ontario Base Mapping - Thunder BayWhen you first open the viewer you are zoomed out to the full extent of the province with mapping tools represented by icons on your left and accessible data layers on the right hand side. Using the AOI icon, you first need to define an area of interest that will zoom the map window into your specific area, populating the map window with more detailed GIS layers and features.

From the list on the right hand side, you then select the visible layers that you wish to download. Next using the FME icon from the tools on the left hand side, a window will open up prompting you to log-in, create a free user name and password (or enter your existing log-in) and then a download options window will appear.

You then need to click a check box to agree with the license terms and click the Download Data button to continue. Finally another window with instructions for acquiring the data in a variety of formats (e.g. SHP, DWG, DXF etc.) and in either Latitude / Longitude or Lambert Conformal Conic coordinate system. Then there will be one final window with a message telling to check your e-mail for a message.

You will then get a machine-generated e-mail from the Geography Network with a custom download link with the Ontario topographic data layers that you specified for your area of interest that you defined. And that is all there is to it, so if you are looking for Ontario topographic GIS data layers to download or  just want want to create online maps then the Ontario Basic Mapping (OBM) site could help you out.

If you know of other Ontario data sources that I have not yet added to the Canadian data  collections then let me know about it and I will add it to the site.

British Columbia’s DataBC program

Recently I received a few messages updating me about the progress the province of British Columbia has made with their DataBC project witch helps provide the public access to public funded data sets (http://www.data.gov.bc.ca/).

Screen Grab DataBC - online web mapping portal

I checked  DataBC site out and was impressed with the great job that the BC folks have done with sharing their geographic tools and data that in turn should also help increase the use of geomatics in British Columbia.

DataBC – Provincial Open Data

The DataBC program provides public access to provincial geographic information through a single web interface, offering a multitude of geographic data (spatial and non-spatial), applications and tools in order to help their citizens make better informed decisions, inspire change and encourage development of new ideas to improve government decision making & policies. Besides providing the Provincial Open Data initiative they also mange the Provincial SDI/Services Architecture among other things.

They have provided minimal licensing requirements to their data to help broaden the use of the Province’s assets. “You can use our geographic services to help map the data and find tools to help you conduct your own research, analyze statistics, develop apps or to simply satisfy your curiosity.” Open data provides opportunities for the public geomatics community to help changing demands of society.

“BC has rich and varied geography. From the rich farmland of the Fraser Valley to the deep forests of northern BC and Vancouver Island, no two places are alike. This diversity has made BC a geomatics leader in Canada. Since 2003, the Province of BC has provided a Spatial Data Infrastructure, centred on the BC Geographic Warehouse. This shared data store of geographic data greatly increases the availability and use of the Province’s wealth of geographic data. To support this work, we also provide web services, application frameworks and online applications to discover, view, download and analyze geospatial data.

The Spatial Data Infrastructure encompasses all government sectors, providing hosting, transformation and delivery of data across government and to the public. Used extensively to support government decisions, these systems serve hundreds of thousands of users with 110 legislated and mandated line of business applications such as land tenure, transportation, public safety and emergency response systems.

iMapBC is the primary map viewer used to access this comprehensive collection of data.”

[source: data.gov.bc.ca/dbc/geo/index.page]

What type of Open data is available from British Columbia’s DataBC Catalogue?

They provide data in a variety of formats including XLS, CSV, SHP, KML formats for downloading with an optional WMS data connection for loading data sets directly into your GIS software. Since they are now approaching almost 3000 different data sets, (all with Open Government Licence use) it is pretty pointless to list them all here, however here are a few highlights of the data sets are available as WMS services:

  • Administrative Boundaries – This web map service offers seamless, administrative boundary data for the province of British Columbia.
  • Air and Climate – Data relating to patterns of wind, temperature, precipitation, etc., over a period of time, for a specified area.
  • Base Mapping – Seamless, provincial topographic base maps at four scales
  • Geodetic Survey – Data relating to the geospatial reference used for positioning within the Province.
  • Geology and Soils – Data relating to the structure and composition of the earth, its physical and organic history.
  • Imagery – Orthophotography, hill shades and regional imagery covering various portions of British Columbia.
  • Imagery – Spot 15m satellite imagery & Landsat imagery covering various portions of BC.
  • Land Ownership and Status – Data relating to the ownership of land and the parcels into which the land has been subdivided.
  • Land Use Plans – Data resource management direction as well as designation of resource management units for the purposes of
  • Land Use Planning.
  • Mining and Petroleum – Data relating to the inventory, planning, management, and monitoring of the extraction and depletion of mineral, sand, gravel, coal and petroleum resources.
  • Physical Infrastructure – Data about human-made physical structures, which support economic and social activities. e.g.: utilities, communication, transportation, buildings.
  • Wildlife and Plant Species – Data relating to the inventory of wildlife, and/or plant species (including species at risk), and the quantity and quality of a species habitat.
  • And Much More – Click here to check out the rest of the data sets

“Start a project” Feature

Screen Grab DataBC - The "Start a project" feature

The “Start a project” feature on the site was kind of a neat, it helps to inspire or encourage people into generating their own applications, maps and research. The little interactive tool kind of coaches people that need some guidance or a little push to get their projects rolling. It shows how dedicated the team of the DataBC program are as they try to inspire more people to get involved and use what they have to offer.

It is not just the general public and enthusiastic geomatics professionals that have been making use of the DataBC site. various other BC government programs and organizations have also been getting involved utilizing some of the data sets to provide on line mapping services to enhance their own web sites and services.

Some examples are the Ministry of Justice that offers a “BC Court Finder” web map  and BCParks that created the Things to Do & See in BC web map.

Check out what DataBC has to offer or download some British Columbia data sets and get started on your project.

And if you can not find the data you are looking for and want more British Columbia data, then be sure to request the data as the site boasts that they are open to communication (through their web site & social media) and feedback and want to hear from those that get involved or have something to share. In order to continue providing good Open Data Sets they need people to let them know what matters most and what their citizens need access to.

Relevant Links to DataBC program

Here is a summary of some relevant Links to DataBC program documents and services:

Main DataBC Site: http://www.data.gov.bc.ca
Their public facing geographic services website: http://www.data.gov.bc.ca/dbc/geo/
The DataBC concept of operations: http://pub.data.gov.bc.ca/documents/DataBC_Concept_of_Operations_-_V1.0.pdf
Open Information and Open Data Policy: http://www.cio.gov.bc.ca/local/cio/kis/pdfs/open_data.pdf
BC Provincial OG Licence: http://www.data.gov.bc.ca/dbc/admin/terms.page?

Another page describing the other Geomatics related services available from DataBC will follow soon.